IPv6 is the most recent version of the Internet Protocol (IP), the communications protocol that provides an identification and location system for computers. First developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force in the 1990s, IPv6 became a full standard in 2017. However, its spread and usage in the world has not been as fast as anticipated. In 2012, IPv6 was permanently enabled by Internet Service Providers, networking equipment manufacturers, and web companies.
IPv4 Address Exhaustion
IPv4 was the first publicly used version of the Internet Protocol. Address exhaustion was not originally a concern with IPv4. The IPv4 addresses don’t officially expire, but they are being moved over to IPv6 as IPv4 addresses are nearly exhausted.
The Difference Between IPv4 and IPv6
The major issue with IPv4 is that it is running out of addresses. The goal for IPv6 is to supplement and eventually replace IPv4. IPv4 uses 32-bit addresses, which means there are only approximately 4.7 billion addresses available. IPv6, on the other hand, uses 128-bit addresses, resulting in approximately 340 undecillion available addresses. The actual number is smaller, as several ranges are set aside for special cases or are completely excluded from use. IPv6 allows for hierarchical address allocation methods; this promotes route aggregation across the internet. Despite the addresses looking different, there should not be a noticeable difference to users. As we evolve into using more internet connected devices, the larger address space becomes more critical. To this end, IPv6 will be a fundamental technology in the IoT revolution.
What happened to IPv5?
IPv5 was the “Internet Stream Protocol.” Its focus was supporting voice and video communications. It was only an experiment and was not publicly released because, like IPv4, it used 32-bit addresses and would have faced the same exhaustion issue.